This week on Recommendsday, I’m pleased to bring you an interview with Tom Ward. Tom is the writer/creator of several projects but this week we’re featuring Merrick: The Sensational Elephant Man. Issues 5 and 6 of Merrick are currently up on Kickstarter and I’ve backed the project personally. Merrick is every bit of “sensational” that it’s title proports and I can’t recommend it enough. And I love Luke Parker’s art! So, check out this interview and consider backing the project yourself! I Recommendsday it!
Hi, I’m Tom Ward, like many people in the Uk my first experiences of comics was reading Asterix and Tintin books from the library and picking up a copy of The Beano every week. Then eventually finding random Batman and Star Wars collections and anything else I could get my hands on in local random discount book stores. It’s wasn’t till I got a bit older where I started reading more and more stuff in University.
I released my first comic Merrick: The Sensational Elephantman #1 as a free download in Feb 2014 (you can still download it free here: http://www.merrickcomic.co.uk/issue-1-free-download). That was actually the first comic script I ever wrote. It took me around 2 years previous to that to finish the scripts for that first story arc (issues #1-4) and to put together a creative team for the book.
Any money the comic makes goes to paying Luke and Nic a page rate for art and letters so unfortunately I have a dayjob to pay the bills. I’m also pretty much single handedly restoring an entire house with my girlfriend right now so time to make comics is pretty sparse, which is really annoying because I have a tonne of ideas for new things I want to work on.
Since then we’ve collected the first story arc of Merrick into a trade paperback collection, released a one-shot spinoff, Treves: A Restless Night, had a few shorts printed in anthologies like The Grime, Comichaus and The British Showcase Antholoy.
I’ve spent entirely too much time in my life working in boring, depressing, garbage jobs. One of the few benefits of this is that it gives your brain a chance to be left to it’s own devices and a lot of time to just wander. One day I was just thinking about super heroes and the funny formula of “ANIMAL NAME – MAN” used as a catalyst for so many of them. I got to thinking about Batman, Spider-Man, Hawkman, Antman, even Animal Man, seeing how many I could come up with off the top of my head which led me to The Elephantman and how that was already a real guy, I tried to remember if that had ever been done before and could only vaguely remember an old Marvel villain Man Elephant. After a bit of time on google it I was surprised it had never been done before, it seemed obvious that the thick tough skin and strength of an elephant would be perfect superhero fodder. So many people at conventions will comment on how was it never done before? Which I guess is the sign of a good idea.
Then I got really interested in reading about the real Elephant Man, Joseph Merrick. His life story, the people he was connected with and the period of time he was alive in were fascinating. It already hit so many classic pulp and comic book tropes, the name, wearing a mask, being associated with people in secret societies and with an interest in the occult. I knew with a couple of slight tweaks to history it definitely had the potential to be a comic, that as a comic fan, I would absolutely love. It didn’t already exist so I figured I may as well just do it myself.
Myself and Luke have always worked well together, we have very similar points of reference for stuff and I think are definitely on the same page. We very rarely have any art edits to do past initial layouts, Luke’s great at what he does so if he thinks of a better angle to take a panel from or whatever I generally just tell him to go for it. Time is really our main challenge, it takes so much time and effort to make a comic, with a lot of stuff going on in the background that people may not even realise. We are always still learning and hopefully becoming more efficient as we go though. I’ve been doing a lot of cons the last couple of years, pretty much all the English ones, I’m going to be taking a break from that in 2017 and concentrate solely on more writing and getting more books out in hopefully a more regular and timely manner. I’d love to get Merrick to a regular quarterly or bi-monthly release.
Finally, when readers sit down and read through Merrick, what do you hope they’ll take away from it?
Really I just hope they enjoy it and look forward to more of it. We’ve had some amazing feedback from people online and at cons though, one person has said that one of our pages is their favourite comic page ever, other people have said they’ve found it empowering or that it’s inspired them to create their own comic or art or whatever. That kind of thing is really special and definitely more than I ever expected. There’s so many people who have the books already who just come to say hi every time at conventions. I’ve just got back from this years Thought Bubble convention and people were actually bringing us thoughtful little presents, absolutely blew my mind, we have some absolutely incredible fans and friends. And it still kind of sounds bizarre to say ‘we have fans’, comics is a cool thing to be involved in.
Our latest Kickstarter for issues #5-6 https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/ourtom/merrick-the-gamblers-cards
www.merrickcomic.co.uk – Where you can download issue #1 for free
Digital issues available at Comixology